From the Whatipu Beach dunes the track climbs steeply up newly created staircases, past exposed rock faces to a ridge high above the northern entrance of Manukau Harbour, plunges you down the ridgeline across an old pā site before a further steep climb to the trig station where on a clear day, sweeping views of the wild west coastline take you all the way to Mt Taranaki.
This is the Ōmanawanui Track.
The completion of the Ōmanawanui Track along with Puriri Ridge Track, a 6-kilometre upgrade, is a significant milestone in the reopening of the Te Ara Tūhura / Hillary Trail.
The reopening enables the reconnection of the multi-day trail for trampers to once again hike from the Karamatura Valley through to Anawhata following the recently completed tracks linking Huia to Whatipu.
The tracks open to the public at midday on Sunday 21 February.
Mayor Phil Goff says it’s fantastic to see the tracks open again for Aucklanders to enjoy.
“Aucklanders and visitors love the Waitākere Ranges and west Auckland walking tracks and I’m really pleased to be able to open another two today,” he says.
“The tracks were closed to protect our iconic native kauri trees from dieback disease; thanks to Aucklanders’ for their support for the Natural Environment Targeted Rate which has allowed $311 million worth of investment over 10 years, to substantially upgrade them, protecting kauri and enabling them to be enjoyed by Aucklanders once again.
“I thank Te Kawerau ā Maki for their support in protecting this area and helping to make it safe for kauri and able to be enjoyed by future generations.”
Respecting the rahui
In 2018, following a rahui being placed by iwi over the ngahere of the Waitākere Ranges, Auckland Council made the decision to close the majority of the tracks within the park as part of a suite of measures to increase protection of the region’s kauri forests until mitigation work could be carried out.
Te Kawerau Iwi Holdings Director Edward Ashby says, “The reopening of Omanawanui and Puriri Ridge tracks improve the recreational infrastructure in and around the park for the public while keeping the forest safe and allowing it time to heal.
“It has always been about protecting and healing the forest both for its own sake, and so future generations can come here and enjoy this taonga in years to come.
“We know our west coast communities and the wider public have missed accessing parts of the forest, and I thank these communities and public who have by-and-large embraced the ethic of kaitiakitanga (guardianship) and helped us help this treasure,” he adds.
Throughout the upgrade project, Auckland Council has worked in partnership with Te Kawerau ā Maki to manage the forest as part of an ongoing commitment to respect the cultural rahui and wider cultural values of the park.
A nod to the memory
The Waitākere Ranges were Sir Edmund Hillary’s backyard; it was where he prepared for his expeditions walking the hills and beaches.
To honour his memory and provide a challenging multi-day journey close to Auckland city the Hillary Trail was opened in January 2010. As a further acknowledgement of his many journeys of exploration the trail will now carry a dual name Te Ara Tūhura / Hillary Trail.
The challenge is worth the reward
Work on the tracks began back in December 2019; COVID-19 lockdowns have been disruptive over the last year, pushing work on the tracks back.
The upgrades include the installation of:
- 2.5 kilometres of box steps – approximately 2420 individual steps on Omanawanui Track and another 700 on Puriri Ridge
- 700m of boardwalk
- 1070 tonnes of gravel material has been airlifted into the area
- 237 lifts of timber and materials
- new lookout on the highest point giving 360-degree views
- innovative no-dig track and floating boardwalks around pā
“It’s been a challenging piece of work,” says Senior Ranger, Stu Leighton.
“The narrow ridges of these tracks and the steep terrain have made construction work tricky. Engineering the path around the historical pā site on the Omanawanui Track was a particular highlight.”
Find out more about the Himalayan Trust, founded by Sir Edmund and Louise Hillary, here.